Human Condition

HUMAN CONDITION

Tatsuya Nakadai as Kaji

Human Condition, Part 1 is probably the most movie film I’ve ever seen. Directed by Masaki Koyabashi, Human Condition, Part 1 shows places idealistic hero Kaji-san in a Manchurian mine that’s managed with an iron fist. Young Kaji-san believes if the workers are treated humanly, they’ll produce more. Even if they didn’t, he believes it’s the right thing to do. Who wouldn’t agree?

The answer is plenty of the other managers and administrators. The head honcho will indulge Kaji-san, but only so far. That man’s main preoccupation seems to be living the easy life. Okishima-san is a veteran at the mine, who thinks Kaji-san’s ideas are too humanistic, but he’s open to giving them a try. He’s one of the few friends Kaji has.

Soon the mine is given 600 Chinese war prisoners. At the same time the higher ups have increased the quota by 20%. Kaji-san wants to see them treated well. He’s certainly alone on that.

When the train comes with the Chinese, the workers are emaciated. Fifteen died en route. Kaji-san campaigns for humane treatment for the Chinese. By  giving them more food, by no means a lot, they are able to work. Trouble comes when some of these prisoners start to escape. Kaji-san’s Chinese assistant Chen gets talked into convincing his pal who mans the electricity to shut it off after 1 am. When the third group tries to escape, Kaji-san’s nemesis accuses Kaji-san, who was totally in the dark, of allowing the prisoners to escape.

One of the most amazing things about this film, which is quite an indictment of Japan during the war, is that it got made and released, that the books it was based on were published. The film depicts a corrupt and brutal leadership. Japan heavily censored speech and punished dissenters in WWII. I admire Japan for allowing writers and filmmakers to criticize it’s atrocities in what at The time was it’s recent past. The Chinese characters are depicted fairly. Some are heroic, others rash or venial. I am sure there aren’t any Chinese films that show Mao’s Cultural Revolution, the 100 Flowers campaign, or Tiananmen Square in a similar fashion, which is a shame. It takes a great society to let it’s artists critique its wrongs.

The acting, particularly Nakadai’s, is outstanding. I’ve never been so moved. While the camera is used masterfully, the film manages to blend naturalism and art.

Three and a half hours is a long time for a film, but the time speeds by. That’s quite a feat.

We’ve Come a Long Way

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At a presentation on writing Historical Fiction at my library, the speaker talked about Scold’s Bridles. In the 16th and 17th centuries women who were guilty of nagging their husbands, spreading malicious gossip and challenging the clergy could be punished by having to wear a scold’s bridle. The idea was to humiliate. Some bridles had little spokes that actually cut into the face or head. These were popular in Scotland.

Note: There were also humiliating punishments for men who were cuckolded. While both punishments seem cruel and unusual, punishing a man who’s wife had an affair seems even more unjust. The thinking seems to have been that scolds and cuckolds were unnatural.

For more see: Lancaster Castle, Scold’s Bridle

Sepia Saturday

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This week’s prompt is court-related. Judges, lawyers, and trials come to mind. Here’s what I found from Flickr Commons.

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John Marshall portrait, National Gallery

John Marshall was the fourth and longest serving Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Under the 34-year leadership of Chief Justice John Marshall, the Supreme Court of the United States transformed itself from a minor court of legal issues into a powerful third branch of government. Marshall infused his court with the power to declare laws of the federal government unconstitutional and to declare that state laws violated the federal constitution. Further, Marshall provided the Supreme Court and the new republic a vision of the nature of the Union–a nation powerful enough to act but not so powerful as to smother the states. Marshall’s “judicial nationalism” became a beacon of unity in the United States before the Civil War. Most important, John Marshall defended and fulfilled the constitutional goals of a strong federal judiciary and a Supreme Court equal to the president and Congress in prestige, influence, and power ” (Historic  World Leaders, 1994).

Below are two very serious judicious photos from Canadian Archives found in Flickr Commons:
Judges - First Appellate Division

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Reference

“John Marshall.” Historic World Leaders. Gale, 1994. Biography in Context. Web. 17 Jan. 2015.

Serial

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If you haven’t listened to the popular podcast, Serial , you should. Produced by the people behind public radio’s This American Life, Serial follows one story over the course of 12 weekly episodes. You can listen to them all on iTunes for free.

Season 1 focuses on a 1999 murder and trial. A high school student Hae Min Lee goes missing after school. Later her body is found and her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed gets arrested and convicted. Adnan has served 15 years for this crime which he contends he’s innocent of.

In this series the host Sarah Koenig interviews their friends and those key to the crime, considers possible alibis, shares police interview tapes, and shares her thoughts on whether Adnan did in fact do it. She speaks with Adnan a lot. He’s a smart, charming guy and like Sarah, I went back and forth from week to week on whether he did it. The radio or podcast medium gives the series an intimacy it would lack in video.

Justice Served

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Yesterday I had jury duty, and while I know most people loathe the hassle I like the whole idea. I wasn’t thrilled that I had to take a 30 bus ride after getting in to Union Station downtown, but the commute wasn’t too bad.

The journey went smoothly. I got to the courthouse without a problem. Outside the criminal court I saw a group, Courtside Prayer. It’s a new ministry that prays for whomever wants it.

holtAt 9:00 prospective jurors were shown a video, a tad dated as it featured NBC’s Lester Holt with a mustache. It looked like the video was from the 1980s. Afterwards we were told that we’d be bused to a courthouse on Harrison.  When we got there the 32 of us went up to the courtroom and swiftly began jury selection. Throughout the judge was swift and got down to business. He was clear and attentive to procedure and the law.

I was one of the first 14 called up and was put on the jury. I was worried that since this was a criminal case, there might be gruesome graphics, but I trusted that I’d be on a case I could handle and I was. The first group was sent into the jury room to wait for them to choose three more jurors and an alternate. By 12:20 pm the judge was explaining the schedule and process. We then had to return by 1:30 from lunch.

The judge kept things moving along and our case was straightforward. The victim had gone to pick up her mother for a 4th of July party at her house. She had an altercation with her stepfather, who eventually hit her repeatedly. During the confusion, the victim said a man from the barbecue behind the apartment burst into the hallway of the building and stopped the fight. At some point the victim’s mother came out too and yelled, “Stop hitting my daughter!” The police were called and took the victim’s story and tried to find the defendant who’d left the scene.

The judge kept everything going at a brisk pace and all the lawyers seemed new to the profession, but the case was pretty simple and they did fine. (I do think they tried to be more dramatic and verbose than needed.) The state called four witnesses and the defense called one.

By probably 3:40 we had the case for deliberation and after two votes and a thorough discussion, we reached our verdict. Guilty as charged. The jurors were conscientious and a good group to work with. We stuck to the facts and invited dissension. While people didn’t want things to drag out, from what I could tell, no one compromised on their duty to be fair. All earned their $17.20 for the day. One man said that was the rate they paid in 1972, when gas cost .36 a gallon. (Most people drove to the courthouse.)

Considering that the incident occurred less than a month ago, it’s possible to get a speedy trial in this county at least. Perhaps domestic violence cases are sped along as the parties are so closely tied.